“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15, NLT).
Today I want to share six steps that have helped me in my personal approach to prayer. I trust that you can find something here that will benefit you as well.
1. Prayer begins when a God acknowledged need enters my life.
We are intimately related to the sovereign God of the universe. The God who spoke the universe into existence by the power of the word is the same God who insists we call Him “Father” and refers to us as His children. Many times when needs arise and problems intrude, instead of turning to our loving Father we respond in fear. How does God see our needs and problems? Some perspective here can be helpful. From God’s point of view, my need is a platform upon which God can prove to the world how powerfully He provides for his people. Additionally, my need is a signal from God that He has a blessing available for me for which I have not asked. And finally, my need is an indication from God that He has not given up on the possibility that I might learn how to pray. Prayer begins when we adopt God’s perspective on our needs and problems.
2. I turn to God in prayer as my first response, not my last resort.
Many of our public buildings have fire extinguishers encased in a glass cabinet. Etched on the glass in bright red lettering is the phrase, “In case of emergency, break glass.” Ironically, that’s how many people view prayer. When we have come to the end of our resources and our resourcefulness, we break the glass and make our desperate pleas to God. Our relationship to God is a love relationship, not a legal contract. He desires to be our first response when challenges arise.
3. In prayer, God reveals His will to me.
God does this through two means: by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-12) and through the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Spirit of God and the word of God are like two rails upon which a train travels. It takes both to get the job done. If you take one away from the other you risk derailment.
4. I align my will with God’s will.
Here’s the tricky part. Knowing God’s will is only half the battle. Once you are aware of God’s will, you have to take the next step and align your will with God’s will. I think the most helpful passage on this point is the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene. He clearly knew the Father’s will, yet asked three times for the Father’s “plan B.” The conclusion Jesus came to was the conclusion we must come to in this step, which is “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
5. I make a faith request based upon God’s will.
Jesus taught us to ask according to the will of the Father. God’s will is our guidance in prayer. We can know God’s will and must ask in accordance to His will when we pray.
6. God hears and grants the request that is made in His will.
1 John 5:14-15 indicates that God’s hearing and granting are simultaneous in nature. When God hears His will He grants his will.
These steps in prayer have been helpful to me, and I trust that you will find them helpful to you as you continue to learn how to pray. Like riding a bicycle, the only way we can really learn to pray is to pray! FB Meyer once commented that the most tragic aspect of prayer is not unanswered prayer. The most tragic thing is unoffered prayer. Let me encourage you to continue to pursue prayer daily. There’s no better way to learn!